When I saw all the boring menus offered on most wedding catering websites, we immediately decided just to cater the whole thing ourselves. Other blogs talk about self-catering your wedding like it’s an insanely difficult task, along the lines of building a rocket ship or performing open-heart surgery, but it’s really not hard at all if you plan it right. For anyone that enjoys cooking and is having a smallish wedding, I think it’s perfectly feasible. The key to doing this successfully is that you don’t want to actually cook anything on your wedding day. I made virtually everything in advance and then just had my mom keep an eye on the oven while it all reheated. (We were outside trying to see if the dogs would sit still for wedding portraits. They wouldn’t). If you decide to go the self-catering route, there are a few things that you need to think about while you’re menu planning:
1. Does the dish hold well in the refrigerator for a day or two?
It’s perfectly fine to cook things several days in advance from a food safety standpoint, but will you be sacrificing texture or flavor? Steamed rice will dry out in the fridge, spaghetti is basically impossible to reheat without a microwave, mashed potatoes turn into one solid lump. It’s better to think more along the lines of casseroles, braises, stews, curries and the like. You can always do a test batch in the months leading up to the wedding and then see how it lasts in the fridge. Since we were cooking for such a large range of diets for our wedding day, we decided to go italian with everything. It tends to be a good common ground that will make everyone happy, from carnivores to vegans.
2. Do you have enough fridge space?
We were cooking for 25 people. We have a pretty average sized fridge and it was totally full of saran wrapped casserole dishes. We couldn’t have fit one more thing if we tried. Beverages were out in the garage and in coolers to stay cold. By this logic, I would estimate 1 refrigerator per 25 people. (You definitely don’t want to make a bunch of food and then realize you don’t have anywhere to store it…)
3. Remember food safety.
Remember to properly refrigerate the food you cook in advance. Make sure to reheat it thoroughly on the day of the event. When you’re cooking in the days leading up to the event, make sure you arrange your fridge properly and put vegetables and cooked food higher up than raw meats, which should be at the bottom of the fridge (so you don’t end up getting chicken juice getting on your raw vegan appetizers).
4. Menu Planning:
As with all local cooking, it’s not a good idea to get too set on a specific thing. I knew what I had in the pantry and the garden, so I had some ideas, but I also shopped at the farmers market the week before the cooking.
With all that in mind, here’s the menu we figured out, doing our best to highlight the local foods we have available in February:
We didn’t bother with a rehearsal or a rehearsal dinner, but for Friday night, when we had some friends over to help set up the space for the ceremony the next day, we had big pots of vegan curries that are simple to make and can hold on low for hours and hours.
and for Saturday, the wedding day:
Breakfast, self-serve for all of the guests that stayed with us:
- Vegan Summer Rolls stuffed with local greens, served with Peanut Sauce
- Crab Rangoon, made with local dungennes crab and spring onions
- Local Cheese Plate
- Lasagna with beef & pork ragu, made with our home canned tomato sauce
- Stuffed shells with local chard, ricotta custard and black pepper chevre from my friends at Shamrock Artisan Cheese, topped with our tomato sauce.
- Vegan Polenta Casserole with Mushroom Ragu (The link takes to to a similar recipe with a different filling. Same idea though).
- Garden Salad with greens from Floodgate Farms and Lovin’ Mama Farms
- Vegan Chocolate Cake with Vegan Buttercream Frosting
Since I can’t write a post this long and not share a recipe, I should probably tell you about my summer rolls and peanut sauce…. This is such a great appetizer; they always make people super happy and taste great. Plus, since it’s really mostly salad, your guests don’t end up eating a bunch of rich food right off the bad (….. because that means food comas and food comas don’t really make for a fun party). Summer rolls are super labor intensive, but they can be made a day in advance as long as you cover each layer thoroughly with saran wrap. My new sister-in-law and I rolled about 100 of them while we hung out together the day before the wedding and it really went pretty quick.
The Kitchn has an excellent post about wrapping summer rolls, so I’m not going to bother re-photographing everything they already did….
For the peanut sauce, I use an approximation of the following recipe. (I wanted to tell you an exact version, but I burned out the motor in my blender, so now I just have to estimate. I’ve made it so many times that this should be really close, though.)
Cook Time: 5 minutes
- 2 c. freshly ground peanut butter, usually found in the bulk-food section of the grocery store
- 1 red onion, roughly chopped
- 1/2″ of peeled ginger root, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 or 3 hot peppers, depending on your heat preference (dried or fresh will both work)
- 1/4 c. roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 c. orange juice
- 2 tbs. soy sauce
Combine everything but the peanut butter in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the peanut butter and blend again.* If the sauce is too thick for dipping, add some orange juice. If it’s too thin and watery, add some more peanut butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If it tastes too spicy, add some honey or sugar. You can serve this immediately but it will hold in the fridge for several days.
*If you put in the peanut butter first, you’ll burn out motor in the blender.
Note: Next time I make peanut sauce, I’ll check the amounts on this recipe, but if someone else makes it first, please let me know how it goes.